Smart manufacturing for increased flexibility
By Kumaravelu Sokka, OEM Director, Asia-Pacific, Rockwell Automation
Tuesday, 23 June, 2020
If 2020 has taught us anything so far, it’s that we must never be complacent. Just six months ago, leaders in manufacturing organisations had a fixed view of operations and things moved as they always had: the need for digital installations was not critical but more so borne out of a general desire to boost efficiency or build in remote support for breakdowns.
But when COVID-19 struck, the need for remote support, digital systems and flexibility revealed itself.
In an instant, the pandemic, and the forced lockdown it created, had underscored the importance of establishing advanced smart manufacturing capabilities in Australia and a new normal formed, marked by accelerated transformation.
The reality is that flexible manufacturing is increasingly a requirement for machine builders to stay ahead of the curve and offer value-added solutions to their customers. The importance of integrating flexible, solutions-oriented software to the plant floor has emerged out of the reaction to COVID-19.
OEMs are challenged to evolve at an unbelievably rapid pace. With manufacturers striving to meet increasing global demand, OEMs are in a position to bring significant value to their customers by making their machines smarter and their production lines more adaptable to the most extreme of circumstances.
Advances in smart machine technology have brought about a new era in manufacturing. Customers benefit tremendously from a differentiated machine offering that uses their existing platform and data and deliver more insights and value: smart machines that connect the plant floor with the enterprise, and generate actionable intelligence that adds an invaluable degree of operational flexibility.
Scalable analytics platforms illustrate this. They use smart machine technology to provide advanced analytics capabilities including machine learning. The OEMs around the world can initiate this technology with minimal cost, ultimately helping their customers to use their operational data to generate actionable insights and empowering them for more responsive, informed decision-making about their business performance. Integrating data from these different sources into a single model, this helps to detect any operational issues before they cause downtime and increases the overall efficiency of operations.
Manufacturing is also taking advantage of developments within the field of augmented reality, in which OEMs can maximise the potential of their machines while improving the efficiency of operating and maintaining them remotely and onsite. Implementing a series of step-by-step instructions to guide employees helps end users move closer to securing a competitive advantage, optimising resources by reducing employee training needs and improving downtime and changeovers. These are just a few examples of smart machine technology solutions that take companies to the next level of their digital transformation journey, and they’re being put into practice.
Companies in Australia and across Asia Pacific are transitioning from predominantly hardware manufacturers to solutions-oriented providers of fully digital production capabilities, equipped to meet the challenges and requirements of the IoT market growth.
The sudden and unprecedented impact of the coronavirus crisis underscores the importance of maintaining advanced manufacturing capabilities. Manufacturing in Australia has fallen over the last two decades from 13% of gross domestic product to 6% and is crying out for the appropriate investment to create new growth opportunities.
Services too are going through radical change, and it is arguable that things will never be the same in manufacturing again. Business models for manufacturers globally have been disrupted, and in their place are new and different understandings about the value of services and the power of smart technologies to quickly pivot and change operations. These business models have the potential to deliver huge value and a level of resilience that we may never see again for production-based ways of competing. The rate of digital transformation required in this new climate requires secure, reliable, seamless connectivity to all industrial assets and provides ample opportunity for the deployment of smart machine technology to more effectively meet the demands of manufacturers.
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